Is it safe? Egypt

Today we start a new theme or series of posts. Not the handprint stories. Nor the usual travel topics. We call it the ‘Is it?’ series. What is the intent? Well for one we are a little tired of fake news and media sensationalization. Wow. That’s a long word and we are not sure if it stands up against spell check.

Anyway. The point of this post is to remind you to focus on accurate information. Or at least getting a stab at obtaining some. So today we are focused with Egypt as an example.

And what prompted us to do this post was something we read in our local newspaper a couple of months ago (here). If one reads the chatter on the web, it would appear there is still a lot of reticence to visiting the country. The tourism numbers illustrates the current plight of the industry, which formerly used to contribute more than 11% of the country’s GDP (at height of 2010). Approximately 12% of the workforce was connected in some ways to this industry. It has shrunked significantly since then.

But is the country as unsafe as the media (mainstream or social) portrays it?

Sure. There are places in the country and sections of cities one should be extremely careful about venturing to. However that is applicable to many places around the world, even in the little red dot! Apply some good sense by observing your surroundings plus doing some of your own research we are sure you’d be fine.

We enjoyed our journey to Egypt (read all about it here). And we are sure you will too!

Don’t eat airline food anymore?

Would you listen to a celebrity chef cum reality TV star cum restauranteur? For one thing, the quoted person in this article suggests that he himself will not touch airline food. Apparently from his own wealth of experience working for some of the most prestigious airlines in the world, he knows enough to avoid it.

Does this kind of review(s) influence you?

Now one thing that the above article does not provide are concrete reasons from who we’d refer to as a so-called social influencer. He simply referred to the fact he knows where the airline food has been and how long it took before getting on the plane with the passengers. Which honestly is the same with all pre-cooked meals anyway…so what’s new? It just need to be served and consumed within a certain number of hours when stored at the appropriate temperature and conditions.

You might recall we wrote a little post about gorgeous airline food and shared with you some of those we had the privilege of sampling at 30,000+ feet in the air. At that rarefied air, food taste different than you are back on planet earth we asserted and convinced you (we hope). The meal(s) you have onboard would thus be something you’d likely reject/avoid on a daily basis.

You might also recall yet another post we wrote (here) where we pointed out that the water in the tanks of the planes potentially seethe with undesirables… so take the coffee and tea at your own risk we are told! Stick with bottled and canned drinks we guess. Perhaps that’s the excuse to be sanitized with lots of alcohol, our preferred one’s from Chianti (here). Heheh.

Would a social influencer sway you? Are all of these sufficient to convince you never to take airline meals ever again?

Pilot Language

Payup Bozoo!

That’s part of pilot speak, and nooooo they are not calling someone silly names. According to an article we read. Sure they are said to swear by these 5-letter words…why? You know when you use GPS or Google maps for navigation, you select markers known as waypoints. These are your “milestones” so to speak, that you gain an understanding of where you are and how you are progressing on a journey.

So its the same with navigating the globe in a plane. The independent revealed (read here) some of the most interesting names that the air traffic controllers have given the waypoints. You’d be amazed that there is no convention for the naming and that various situations and local considerations were the key factors! One thing to note though, these navigation waypoints must comprise of 5 letters of the alphabet.icao-waypoints

Sounds like the way the names of typhoons are named. Each year a different country in the Asia Pacific gets to provide names that would be used for each storm that emerges from the ocean. No real convention there too! Oops, we digressed again!

And it seems that more and more it is getting out of vogue. Because with modern GPS technologies it is no longer critical to follow waypoints some airline quoted said. But we aren’t sure about this…what if one airline decides to ditch waypoints and fly direct using GPS while others stick with it? Would that be allowed?

Do you think airlines should ditch waypoints and map direct point-2-point routes?


Will mobile devices be restricted on planes?

Hmm…not so good publicity for Samsung in the last few months. Batteries self combusting, exchange delays etc. While all this is being sorted out, the bigger question remains : how much risk does mobile devices pose as a fire hazard onboard aircrafts?

It will be best to know if devices, when switched off completely still pose any risk?

We have all read in a number of articles such as this that the lithium-ion battery of mobile phones ignited when crushed. It has been suggested that these batteries (which packs a lot of power) are volatile. It is said to burn at a temperature of ~1000°F. Enough to melt most material that you sit on in a plane we’d think. Fortunately we are told that what we sit on are fire retardent, so it means that an out of control fire is unlikely.

And it isn’t restricted to mobile device, remember hover boards? Airlines banned them too.

While statistics are hard to gather reliably, it does appear that incidents involving the ignition of such battery operated devices is quite frequent if we ask the aircraft crew. Though taken in the context of the sheer number of flights that run each and every day, perhaps the occurrence is still not as prevalent as it is hyped up to be.

Perhaps some preventive actions we can consider as travelers:

  • Don’t use our computing devices while onboard. Yes this is hard for some we know.
  • Keep our mobile devices in the carry-on bags. Not in your pocket, not seat pockets…
  • Switch off the device(s) completely if not using. Not just on airplane mode.

In a world where travel is proletariatized, it will indeed be impossible to fully police the use of electronic devices onboard flights. It seems be to be an inherent human nature to defy rules. Let’s just hope there will be safer ways to use the litium-ion batteries.

At this time, authorities are not empowered to ban the use of any device unless there is a recall. But that has not stopped airlines from taking preemptive actions. That is a good thing, but hopefully we will not end up with restrictions instead.

Do you think airlines will restrict and perhaps even charge (no pun intended) you for bringing mobile devices aboard?

How planes keep away from each other

This article in the Huffington really set us thinking about how the many (hundreds) of mid-air flights over vast oceans and continents avoid running into each other. Do the pilots swerve their aircraft like fighter pilots?

Fortunately no, because that would make flying hell of a roller coaster!

Can you imagine the intensity of flights?

So we are all know that air traffic control plays a critical role, charting paths or the equivalent of road trip waypoints for the pilots to stick with. These days with automatic piloting sofware, it’s all punched into the computer which runs on its own when the plane’s taken off to the designated altitude.

It’s probably when there are technical issues that may force a plane off its programmed route. Or when there is inclement weather disrupting the jetstreams. And for the vast stretches of open water where there is no radar coverage, it is really the compliance of the pilots to report in their positions that keep all in the know that the flight’s ok. So while there is the “ground work” that the air controllers perform, its really the pilots who ultimately determine your safety (and destiny). Yep, that does not change with technology.

Which brings up the issue of missing flight MH370.

Deep down our hearts we all know that the plane has probably met with a tragic end along with the many passengers onboard. All travelers like us. We pray that the loved ones of the victims find peace and solace for this very tragic loss.

For the rest of us, perhaps it is time to look around you and cherish what you now have.

How safe is your hotel safe?

How often have you wondered whether to carry your passports around underneath your clothes with some sort of money belt etc? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a place store it for you safely? Afterall, this is the most important document you’ll have during your journey outside your home country.

There was this video that came out in 2011 about how safe it is to use the hotel safe for your important things or valuables, it has resurfaced again recently to warn about complacency.

We are sure that many hotels would have replaced their safes by now after a period of more than 5 years…and some manufacturers seemed to have modified their designs. But the fact remains, the safes need an overriding PIN to be reset in the event of a malfunction.

While the video is dated, the key learning points we can take from the video remains:

  • Check if the safe’s default PIN has been reset or remains “00000..” Try keying it yourself and see if that works. If it alarms, well you know it does not…
  • Feel for any pin holes that may indicate that a manual override without PIN can be performed. Yeah we know that sounds over the top.
  • Consider where the most obvious places could be the safest? Eg your luggage case that has been locked? Dumb idea.
  • Perhaps put some ‘decoy’ items in the safe? LOL the trick is to decide what and remember to remove it.
  • Really hide stuff under drawers, beneath trash bins that are empty? We think the bin thing is not workable. Housekeeping staff lift up the bin to empty it don’t they?

Up to now, we have actually been quite trusting of the safes in the hotels, often placing our passports and excess cash in it. Suddenly, this changed because our psychology has been affected by re-watching the video… It’s amazing how the human mind can quickly internalize bias from what you see or hear.

Now that we are in Phuket, should we trust the apartment safe?